FSA announcement ‘places whole CBD industry on notice’


An announcement by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that it has set a deadline of 31 March 2021 for CBD businesses to comply with EU Novel Food rules has placed the ‘whole industry on notice’, says the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI).

In new guidance on the CBD category, the agency says that only products which have submitted a valid novel food application will be allowed to remain on the market.

The earlier classification of CBD as Novel Food has been roundly criticized by large parts of the natural products industry, with one CBD trade group previously declaring that it would defy FSA efforts to enforce compliance with Novel Food rules.

The FSA says enforcement of Novel Food rules will be carried out at a local authority level. Local authorities been advised that businesses should be able to sell their existing CBD products until the deadline, provided they are ‘not incorrectly labelled, are not unsafe to eat and do not contain substances that fall under drugs legislation’.

The whole industry is now on notice

In addition, the FSA has advised those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication not to consume CBD products, and healthy adults to ‘think carefully before taking CBD’. The agency recommends no more than 70mg a day (about 28 drops of 5% CBD) unless under medical direction. It says this new precautionary advice is based on recent findings by the Government’s Committee on Toxicity (COT).

Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA, says: “CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorized. The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves.”

Industry reaction

Reacting to the news, the ACI said: “Over the past five years the UK CBD market has grown rapidly – today, over 1.6 million people consider themselves to be regular consumers. The sector employs thousands of people in hundreds of businesses across the country. Until now, it had grown in the shadows of necessary regulation any such industry requires, perpetuating a lack of consumer confidence and business confusion.

“The whole industry is now on notice and we are confident it will respond with urgency to the new clarity the FSA have provided.”

We will be working with … the FSA to agree on a pragmatic approach to addressing those concerns

The Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA), which is due to meet with senior FSA officials on the CBD situation, comments: “The FSA has previously stated on several occasions that, to date, it has no evidence to suggest consumption of CBD poses any food safety risk to consumers, so we are confident that a proportionate approach to these issues should continue.

“We acknowledge the challenges facing regulators and the responsible industry we represent, and we will be working with our member companies and the FSA to agree on a pragmatic approach to addressing those concerns when we meet.”

The Cannabis Trades Association said that while it welcomed efforts to create a ‘route for compliance’ for CBD businesses, it continued to take the view that natural CBD products do not fall under the scope of the Novel Food schedule.

Ticking bomb
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) said the FSA had placed a ‘ticking bomb’ under the CBD products sector. In a post on its website, the natural health advocacy group said: “This is the first suggestion that, in the wake of Brexit, the UK food regulator hasn’t got plans to relax its regulatory approach after the European Commission’s Novel Food Working Group, comprised of representatives from the then 28 Member States, classified CBD as a novel food in January 2019.

“It’s also confirmation that companies that want to sell products in the UK and the European Union (EU) that are classified as novel foods will need to successfully navigate two regulatory obstacles: one in the UK, the other in the EU.”

ANH added that the FSA’s announcement would ‘inevitably benefit the bigger companies with greater resources, risking a disproportionate impact on smaller companies that have traditionally been the pioneers in the natural products sector.’